Goodness, gracious me!

Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs)

 

CIBA CHATELAINE Award 

GRAND PRIZE WINNER for Romantic Fiction

THE HOUSE AT LADYWELL  by Nicola Slade

 

Did you see what I did there? In my last blog post I mentioned that The House at Ladywell was a semi-finalist in the prestigious CIBA Book Awards and that the finalists and prize winners were to be announced at a Grand Banquet in Bellingham in Washington State on 27th April. Well, after some discussion the Resident Engineer and I decided we’d take a trip to the Pacific North West coast of the USA, so accordingly we flew into Seattle, rented a car and drove about ninety miles north to Bellingham, a pretty port that’s just on the US side of the border with Canada.

It’s such a beautiful part of the world, with the Pacific on one side and mountains on the other, as well as delightfully friendly people. We’d had a stopover a couple of years ago, in Vancouver, but that was autumn and the weather was wet and chilly; this time, the weather was wonderful and the air was sparkling and pure. We explored the countryside and visited the extensive tulip fields – surprisingly, that part of the world is second only to the Netherlands when it comes to tulip growing.

There was a cocktail party followed by the Grand Banquet on the Saturday so we scrubbed up accordingly and tucked in to our dinner – and I, unfortunately, forgot all about taking photos. I knew that there had been thousands of entries and that the awards were divided into several different categories. My publisher, Stephanie Patterson of Crooked Cat Books, and I, had decided that The House at Ladywell looked a good fit for Romantic Fiction and as I’ve reported previously – during the last year I was chuffed to find I’d escaped the Slush Pile, jumped out of the Long List in to first the Short List and then the Semi-Finals, all of which was very exciting and I really didn’t expect to get any further.

So there I was, happily diving in to my rather nice dinner when the Finalists of the Chatelaine Romantic Fiction Award were announced, with me among them. Wow! Off I went to collect my posh blue rosette and some techie-looking vouchers (still don’t understand them) and back to my table, covered in confusion and feeling stunned but slightly smug.

Apart from clapping other people enthusiastically I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the rest of the speeches because I was admiring my blue ribbon and thinking how clever I was, when I realised there was an expectant silence – whereupon the Engineer nudged me from one side, and the author on my other side did the same, and they both said: ‘It’s you!’ And what I was, it appeared, was the Grand Prize Winner in my category!  As the Resident Engineer said later, ‘It’s not often Nicky is lost for words!’

 

You know at the Oscars, the presenter opens an envelope – with a drum roll? This slightly crumpled notice on gold paper is what was in the envelope for my award announcement!

 

 

 

 

There’ll be photos, etc, soon from Chanticleer, the fabulous people who run the awards, and I’ll post some of my ‘what I did on my holiday‘ photos too, but in the meantime, here’s a handsome beastie. We visited an amazing reserve (North West Trek) when we left Bellingham and returned to Seattle for four nights. Hundreds of acres dedicated to native wild animals, including grey wolves, elk, bears and a herd of bison. This extremely large and elderly gent was lounging around as we went past in an electric tram and he wasn’t at all bothered by the intrusion. Elsewhere that morning a bison calf had been born but although we drove past the mother, she certainly wasn’t going to show off her baby to any passing strangers.

Soon there’ll be a shiny gold sticker on The House at Ladydwell and, I believe, some reviews it gathered along the way to the awards, but meantime, here’s a link to buy it (tell your friends!) mybook.to/TheHouseatLadywell

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2018 A Year of Books

2018 was certainly all about books! The House at Ladywell had been published about six weeks before the New Year began so I was busily promoting the book and getting excited by the lovely reviews it was getting, (and still is, I’m glad to say!)

At the start of the new year I joined a writers’ collective, Ocelot Press, composed of fellow Crooked Cat authors, most of us writing historical novels. I haven’t yet published via Ocelot Press but certainly plan to do so in the future. Meanwhile I’m learning a lot about publishing! https://ocelotpress.wordpress.com Still in its infancy – and sorry, but we’re not accepting outside submissions

Early in January I retrieved my rights in all five of my books for Robert Hale as they had ceased trading and the publisher that took them over mostly produces non-fiction. I then signed with Williams & Whiting, a Sussex-based company with a penchant for crime (though not exclusively) so my three Charlotte Richmond Victorian mysteries were soon reissued with handsome new covers. They were followed shortly by the first two Harriet Quigley contemporary mysteries – all five books now being available in ebook form and – at last! – paperback.3charbooks

While this was going on I heard from Endeavour Media, publishers in 2016, of my third Harriet Quigley mystery, The Art of Murder, asking if I had anything else in my back list. Only Scuba Dancing, I said, and sent it to them after a bit of a tweak and tidy-up. I was delighted when they responded favourably and it’s due to be republished in February 2019. When first published by Transita Ltd in 2005, ebooks hadn’t taken off and although I self-published it as an ebook in 2013, I’m hoping this new edition will find new readers out there.

As if all this bookish activity wasn’t enough to be going on with, Crooked Cat Books accepted my gently cosy mystery, The Convalescent Corpse, a story of family, rationing and inconvenient corpses, set in 1918. This book came out in November and is beginning to garner some great reviews from readers who say they’ve laughed and cried and been charmed by the characters. I’m so glad people are loving this book..corpsecover3plusshout

The House at Ladywell has proved very popular with readers and has won some prizes, which is great. Discovered Diamond of the Month, book cover of the month for Vintage Treasures,

shortlisted for the Chatelaine award for historical and romantic fiction and now – a few days ago – the news that it’s a semi-finalist in this US-based award! The winner will be announced at the end of April at a convention in Bellingham, near Seattle, a place we haven’t visited, so the Resident Engineer and I are thinking it would be fun to go to that part of Washington state, taking in a day or two at Bellingham for the posh gala dinner! It’s a long way but we’re seasoned travellers so it would be fun.

The plan for 2019 is to take it more slowly, stop getting stressed about it all, and write the sequel to The Convalescent Corpse. I’ve written 15,000 words so far, though they don’t necessarily make sense and I doubt if they’re in the right order. I’m also hoping to write a short story or possibly a novella about Christmas at Ladywell, also in the very early stages so far. But who knows…

Also planned for this year are a couple of speaking engagements, one in June and the other in September, when I’ll be talking about one of my lifelong passions, books for girls and young women, ranging from Victorian to post WW2, and how they have influenced my own reading and writing. Being invited to speak on this topic is a bit like getting an Oscar, for me! The Deadly Dames will ride again at Portsmouth, in the spring, though sadly without one of our members, Eileen Robertson, who died suddenly before Christmas, and I’ll be on a panel at another bookish day in Portsmouth, this time talking about writing romantic novels.

And finally, here’s another of my passions – blue and white china, in this case it’s invalid feeders, mostly from Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, and dating from around 1900.

 

Blue & white invalid feeders, aka pap boats. I collect far too many things, most of them blue & white…

Here’s the link to my Amazon UK page – tell your friends! https://amzn.to/2ovRSKQ Find me (occasionally) on Twitter @nicolasladeuk and take a look at Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703/ I’ve got boards for each of my books, with photos of people and places that inspired me

Life in 1918 – Recipes Part 1

Publication day is almost here. The Convalescent Corpse sets out on its journey on Tuesday, 20th November.  Actually, that’s the ebook, the paperback is already out there. I’m so pleased the powers-that-be at Crooked Cat Books, aka Steph and Laurence Patterson, liked my book and decided to publish it. It’s a story that’s been entertaining me for almost four years now, since the idea dropped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Publication Day – 20th November

Like other middle-class girls, the two elder Fyttleton sisters ‘put their hair up’ at eighteen, or in other words they stopped letting it hang loose or in pigtails, and pinned it up into a bun or a pompadour hairstyle. This signalled that they were now grown up. Working-class girls, of course, had to grow up a lot earlier and upper-class young ladies were presented as debutantes and thrust on to the marriage market. Not being wealthy, Alix, aged nineteen and Christabel who is eighteen, both have jobs and Adelaide, the youngest, is fifteen and still at school. The story begins a few months after the death of Alix’s twin brother Bertie who, as a young officer in the army, was killed on his and Alix’s nineteenth birthday.

I’d been thinking of doing some kind of photo shoot with the aid of my granddaughter Fliss, a keen photographer, when the arrival of a cousin, accompanied by her nineteen-year old daughter, inspired us to go back in time to Spring 1918. The girls in the book have a hairy brown dog called Bobs and, (not by coincidence) so does my daughter, so here he is – fresh from being immortalised in print – with Rosalie (who is in period, wearing a smart straw boater).

Straight out of 1918, ‘Christabel’ the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse, with Bobs the Labradoodle.

At the same time I decided to cook some of the dishes I’d found in an ancient pull-out supplement from Home Chat magazine dated March 1918 – in essence they’re hints on how to make cakes and puddings with mud, sawdust and tears – or in other words whatever you could find now that shortages and rationing were really biting.

This recipe for Syrup & Potato Pudding is one I didn’t use in the book, but it sounded too unappetizing to miss it out. Here it is, exactly as offered to hard-pressed cooks a hundred years ago – I made it so you don’t have to!

Syrup & Potato Pudding (If you are very short of fat you can, in any of the recipes for boiled or steamed puddings, use less fat and add just a little baking powder.)

Required:

Half a pound of mashed potatoes,

Four ounces of flour or substitute

Two ounces of chopped fat (any sort)

Two ounces of stale breadcrumbs

Half teaspoonful carbonate of soda

Three tablespoonfuls of treacle, or syrup, or jam

A little water or fruit juice

Mix the flour, fat, crumbs and soda. Lightly crumble in the potato.

Mix the syrup with three tablespoonfuls of water or fruit juice, and stir it in, adding as much more fluid as needed to make it drop heavily from the spoon.

Press into a greased basin, and cover with a greased paper. Steam for three hours.

Or make the mixture rather slacker, turn into a greased deep baking tin and back for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

I opted for the latter method, not having a pudding basin these days and anyway, I’m far too impatient to hang around for three hours. Here’s a photo of the finished masterpiece, served with a watery custard that’s also in the recipe pull-out.

As always, The Resident Engineer came to my rescue when nobody wanted to taste it – though Fliss kindly photographed it.

Syrup & Potato Pudding (I made it so you don’t have to)

Verdict? ‘Edible and filling, but heavy-going.’ Which is probably what the magazine readers thought at the time, but also what was needed then too.

 More authentic recipes to come in my next post. Fried porridge, anyone?

It’s available at only £1.99 (ebook) and £6.99 (paperback) An ideal Christmas present, if I do say so, for the relative or friend who loves gently funny histories and mysteries! Here’s the Amazon UK link https://amzn.to/2OskEpV

 

Q&A with Author C.J. Sutton – and from me – a Norwegian glacier!

I usually read the cosiest of cosy mysteries but here’s something very different – the forthcoming debut novel by my fellow Crooked Cat author, C. J. Sutton. (Due out 18th July, pre-order now!)

I recently sent him my 8 Quick Questions and here are his interesting responses – thank you, C.J!

Eight Quick Questions

  1. When you finish a new writing project, who is the first person you share it with?

I am very secretive when I finish a new book and generally keep most details away from family and friends, even during the submission process. Usually I will send my brother a text message with a brief outline as we share similar tastes in books and movies, and he will ask me questions about key characters and plot points. Once the cover art is available I’m very quick to post pictures on all facets of social media, but sharing my written work is something I’m still coming to terms with. I think my wife will probably want to start reading my novels before anyone else, so if you ask me this question in a year I will likely have a new answer.

  1. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

A university teacher once told me that my work was always read first because it put her in the mood to read. That always stayed with me. At the time I thought that if I could put someone with years of education in the mood to read, perhaps this would help in selling books to new readers. Compliments do fight against those darker days of writing, but if you take them too seriously you will end up doing the same with criticism. We all have our own voice and stories to share, so eventually you end up relying on instinct.

  1. Everyone has bad writing days (or weeks, or months). What do you do when you start to hate everything that you’ve written?

I tend to just stick at it. Sometimes the rhythm of words can get the plot points down on the page, and I can polish everything when I feel more creative. Pumping out those words is the most important part of the writing process for me, as editing is an aspect that comes quite naturally. A decent word count for the day can make a bad writing day seem productive. A coffee is also beneficial. I liken it to a re-assuring arm across the shoulder. If all else fails, I just go for a walk and think about football.

  1. We all cast our characters for that hypothetical film or tv deal. Which actor/s would you choose to play your main character/s?

Leonardo DiCaprio would have been perfect ten years ago, but as he’s nearing his mid-40s and the lead character is 30 I need to re-think the answer. As much as his Twilight days will follow him everywhere, Robert Pattinson has really impressed me with his recent body of work and he is capable of portraying such a complex and deep-thinking character. I would pitch him for a left-field shot at playing Dr Magnus Paul, the psychologist at the Asylum. For the main antagonist, inmate Jasper James, I would pitch Christian Bale or Tom Hardy. They can both play confronting characters and have demonstrated this over a number of years. For the unreliable guard Carter, hopefully Al Pacino feels capable of straining that voice once more.

  1. What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?

I love writing dialogue. Speech is so important in reading, even if we don’t say the words out loud. I write in a way that tells the reader how words are being said by the character. This is achieved through grammar and this differs with each character. Writing criminally insane characters for Dortmund Hibernate required pauses in speech, capital letters to emphasise screaming and mumbled words. I do hope that readers enjoy the extra dimension this style adds to the novel.

I’m still finding ways to enjoy when the story becomes a product, which requires reading through the manuscript again and again to discover the smallest typo or grammar issue. The first edits are enjoyable, but the latter stages are like wading through a swamp. The only reason I dislike this is because the writing no longer feels fresh to me. I would compare it to listening to the same song over and over; no matter how good it is, you’ll eventually bang your head against the wall.

  1. Research is a vital part of writing. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?

Researching criminally insane patients provided insight into some of the darkest minds the world has seen. The heavy reliance on drugs and electrotherapy throughout the 90s (and prior) was an aspect that I wanted to avoid in Dortmund Hibernate, preferring to focus on the minds and their crimes. I read through books on the likes of Charles Manson to understand how an unstable individual can lead a cult, and also continued my research into psychology. My notes are probably longer than the book.

  1. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Write what you enjoy reading. If you’re interested and having fun, it doesn’t really matter if nobody else reads the book because you’ll have learned more about yourself. Obviously we all want to be successful and sell millions of copies, but what’s the point if the story doesn’t entertain you in some capacity? When you’re in a good space, your writing improves. I’m not sure where I first saw this piece of advice, but it has remained with me.

  1. Finally, in one sentence, tell us about your current project.

Dortmund Hibernate is the most mentally challenging, insane, soul destroying project I have ever worked on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Insights into the way authors create their books is always intriguing. Find out more about C. J. Sutton and his work – and to pre-order Dortmund Hibernate at a bargain price:

Link to Amazon – https://amzn.to/2M76hGH

www.cjsutton-author.com

https://www.facebook.com/cjsutton.author/

http://www.twitter.com/c_j_sutton

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Just to prove I haven’t been idle lately, here’s a photo of a Norwegian glacier I saw lately!

To find my books, here’s my Amazon.co.uk page: https://amzn.to/2ovRSKQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

An intriguing French detective – and some shiny new covers!

The snow’s gone, and even if it comes back – not that likely down here in the Deep South aka Hampshire – there are daffodils and primroses in the garden, the random pheasant sits outside and shouts for his dinner, and the roe deer family peer over the garden fence almost daily. Spring is on its way so it’s time I stopped hibernating so I’m happy to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Angela Wren, to answer my 8 Quick Questions and tell us about her fascinating mysteries set in rural France.

  1. When you finish a new writing project, who is the first person you share it with?

My editor. I run a Writing Group and the various drafts of my stories are shared with the group and I get plenty of comment throughout the writing process.

  1. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

My stories are set in France and the absolutely best comments are those from people who have said they felt as though they were in France itself whilst reading my work.

  1. Everyone has bad writing days (or weeks, or months). What do you do when you start to hate everything that you’ve written?

I chuck whatever I’m writing in a drawer and leave it there for a week or two, or possibly longer.  I have one manuscript that has been in the drawer for two years!  Perhaps it will never come out.

  1. We all cast our characters for that hypothetical film or tv deal. Which actor/s would you choose to play your main character/s?

Actually, I haven’t even thought of that.  My central character, Jacques, would have to be French and whoever plays him would have to fit his physical description.  So, Gerard Depardieu is completely out of the running.  There was a gorgeous French tenor I saw in a production of the Pearl Fishers – now he would be perfect, except I can’t remember his name!

  1. What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?

I absolutely love stringing the words together once I know what my story is. I can just disappear into my fictional world and stay there for days on end. I find editing particularly difficult and very tiring. I don’t exactly dislike it, because I know how essential a task it is. But if there was any part of the writing process that I could ditch, it would definitely be editing.

  1. Research is a vital part of writing. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?

Discovering the Cévennes in south central France for the very first time. It’s the part of France where my stories are set and there’s a silence and loneliness there that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. It’s also an upland area, the scenery is spectacular, the villages are small and sparse and the weather can change in a moment.  A perfect place for murder, I think!

  1. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Never give up – if the story wants to be written it will be.

  1. Finally, in one sentence, tell us about your current project.

I’m in the final stages of completing book 3 (Montbel) in my Jacques Forêt series of stories which will be out later this year.

Thank you for visiting, Angela, I’m looking forward to meeting Jacques again!

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

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And here are the shiny new covers of my Charlotte Richmond Mysteries, re-issued now by Williams & Whiting!

8 Quick Questions – Author Val Penny

I don’t often have guests on this blog but today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Val Penny, whose gripping crime novel,‘Hunter’s Chase’, has just been published. Find out about Val here:

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’.Hunter's Chase banner

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe. DI Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city and he needs to find the source but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

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I’m planning occasional interviews with writing friends, Eight Quick Questions and Val has kindly agreed to be my first visitor (aka guinea pig as it’s an experiment!)

Eight Quick Questions

  1. When you finish a new writing project, who is the first person you share it with?The first person I share a new writing project with when I finish it is the person I share everything with first, my husband Dave. He is so supportive, but he does that first read-through forensically before anybody else reads my work
  2. What is the nicest compliment you’ve ever received about your writing? I really respect Erin Kelly as an author and tutor. I found her psychological thriller ‘The Poison Tree‘ one of the most gripping novels I have ever read. I read it in one sitting, which is very unusual for me, so I tease her that she owes me a night’s sleep. Therefore, I was thrilled when she was kind enough to endorse my debut novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase‘ with these words: “A gripping debut novel about power, politics and the importance – and danger – of family ties. Hunter Wilson is a compelling new detective and Val Penny is an author to watch.”
  3. Everyone has bad writing days (or weeks, or months). What do you do when you start to hate everything that you’ve written?When I cannot enjoy writing, I read or review something I have read to allow me to share it with others on my blog www.bookreviews.info . When I was first mentored by Peter Robinson (the Canadian author who writes the DCI Alan Banks novels), I asked him about writer’s block. He claims that it is an indulgence and doesn’t exist. If you are a writer that you write: whether it be your primary project or another piece of work, you write. I have taken this to heart.
  4. We all cast our characters for that hypothetical film or tv deal. Which actor/s would you choose to play your main character/s?I would choose Ewan MacGregor to play my main protagonist, DI Hunter Wilson but with DC Tim Myerscough, he is specifically described as very tall, 6’4”, so I think I would look to cast the Australian actor, Chris Hemsworth, but he may need a voice coach to learn to speak with Tim’s Scottish Accent.
  5. What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?I enjoy the creation of a story. I like to tell a tale. However, the work of editing and revising is a real chore. It would be lovely to be able to skip that.
  6. Research is a vital part of writing. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?I quite enjoy the research I have to do for my novels. The author of ‘The Real CSI‘, Kate Bendelow, is my ‘go to’ person for forensic details. The most interesting thing I have learned is the vast number of items where fingerprints cannot be lifted and are of no assistance to the police in catching criminals.
  7. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?I have been lucky enough to receive some excellent writing advice. The best piece of advice I have received is from Chris Brookmyre. He advises that if authors write what they enjoy their work will be better written. Brookmyre insists that authors should write what they are happy writing: not what they think the market expects. I enjoy reading crime thrillers and I hope that is reflected in my novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase‘.
  8. Finally, in one sentence, tell us about your current project. My current project is the sequel to ‘Hunter’s Chase‘, it is called ‘Hunter’s Revenge‘ and is due to be published by Crooked Cat Books in late summer 2018.

Author contact details 

http://www.authorvalpenny.com

http://www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

Friends of Hunter’s Chase – http://www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303

Thank you to lovely Val for dropping in – here’s the link to her stunning debut novel:myBook.to/Hunter’sChase

And now for something completely different! My talented brother-in-law, Geoffrey Pimm, has just had his debut non-fiction book published by Pen & Sword, ‘The Dark Side of Samuel Pepys’ : Society’s First Sex Offender. Here’s the Amazon.co.uk link: http://amzn.to/2BLyamB
At a recent family party we posed together with details of our books! 

And just in case you don’t remember, here’s the Amazon link to The House at Ladywell, by me! Tell your friends! Some more sales and reviews would be lovely! 

http://amzn.to/2BLyamB

 

Interesting Times & Handsome Heroes!

I’m delighted that two of my heroines are in the news this week – not only Freya, heiress to the ancient House at Ladywell, but also my Victorian sleuth, Charlotte Richmond. Find out more below and see some almost entirely gratuitous photos of actors who would look pretty good as my heroes and/or villains!

Williams and Whiting, an independent publishing house, announced yesterday: ‘We are delighted to announce we have signed Nicola Slade in a five book deal.   Three of the books will be in the Victorian widow Charlotte Richmond series and two in the retired headmistress Harriet Quigley contemporary mystery series.   The first Charlotte Richmond book Murder Most Welcome will be published in February, to be followed by the other Charlotte books and the first two Harriet books.’  http://williamsandwhiting.com

I’m so pleased that Charlotte will have a new lease of life, in ebook and paperback, and hopefully will find new admirers as she goes about her daily life in Hampshire, stumbling across far too many corpses!

Left: Nathaniel Parker would be perfect as Charlotte’s husband – is he dead? Or is she about to get a nasty surprise?

 

 

And Noah Huntley would do very nicely as Mr Knightley!

~

The House at Ladywell (published by Crooked Cat Books in November) now has around thirty Five Star reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites, which is fabulous. This a terrific one from Nancy Jardine, author of historical and mystery novels. Ladywellfinalcover

‘This was a thoroughly enjoyable book that I wished I could read in one sitting since I was engrossed. As it happened I read it over one day and one night! The tale of the house at Ladywell slowly unfolds with historical glimpses of the surroundings and the inhabitants over the centuries from the earliest Roman times to the present day. Those snatches of previous residents are skilfully interwoven for the reader as the new owner delves back to uncover details about the previous occupants of the house bequeathed to her. The perpetuity of descendants of one family being in situ over 1500 years and more has, I think, got to be a rare occurrence anywhere but it rings true for The House at Ladywell.
The characters are beautifully drawn and the writing and editing superb. The background of Freya Gibson is eventually revealed but the revelations, I think, further enhance her strong character. I’d love to meet Patrick- that successful author and the man in Freya’s life! The supporting characters are also well rounded, especially Nathan the man who can get Freya anything decoratively speaking and the tiny Mary Draper who is like a little whirlwind.
The supernatural aspects of the house work immediately: the ‘house’ now winding a positive spell of its own! (hopefully all previous negatives having been set in ‘balance’).
To be recommended for those who love a good mystery; a satisfying romance; and those who enjoy a little dash of the supernatural added in for good measure.’

And here’s another great review, this one from best-selling mystery novelist, Lesley Cookman: A really beautiful book, not at all the usual romance or mystery. Shades of Elizabeth Goudge, maybe?

In an ideal world (the one with the deal for the film rights) Patrick would be played by Richard Armitage!

And finally, just to make it easy for you to read Ladywell (and maybe do a review, which would be lovely) here’s the link to Amazon! http://amzn.to/2zdcrii
(Photos taken from promotional sites…)

Launching and Lunching

The launch for ‘The House at Ladywell‘ took place on 25th November at King John’s House in Romsey. A mediaeval house now a museum, it has nothing to do with King John but was possibly a rectory for Romsey Abbey, which is opposite.

Attached to the older house is a Tudor cottage, with a tea room downstairs and a Tudor Parlour upstairs, which is where I held the book launch, and very nice it was too! Friends, family and strangers negotiated the uneven floors and twisty stairs to come and say Hello.

This Christmas I thought I’d give you some tips about Christmas dinner, from some of my vintage cookery books. I shan’t be using any of them this year as my elder daughter is cooking this time, but if you want to entertain in style, you couldn’t do better than follow the instructions in Phyllis Browne’s ‘A Year in Cookery’, first published 1879. My edition is the 1903 one. (Unfortunately Phyllis’s book is not illustrated)

 24th December – Marketing for tomorrow:

A young plump cock turkey (should have been bought some days ago and now hanging in a cool larder); three pounds of fresh pork sausages; chestnuts; potatoes; Brussels sprouts; celery; pork pie for breakfast tomorrow; 1/2lb macaroni; six pennyworth cream for the soup.

25th December – Menus:

Breakfast: Melton Mowbray pork pie; buttered eggs; teacakes; dry toast; brown and white bread and butter; boiled hominy

Luncheon: macaroni and bacon; stewed cheese

Dinner: Palestine soup; roast turkey; sausages; potatoes; Brussels sprouts and chestnuts; plum pudding; mince pies; apple mould; cheese. (It very often happens that plum pudding and mince pies are too rich for the digestive powers of one or two of the Christmas guests. When this is likely to be the case, a simpler dish such as Apple Mould should be provided)

Mrs Beeton, my edition 1910:  Isabella Beeton doesn’t give a Christmas menu but she has a splendid, if daunting, illustration of roast poultry and game.

Christmas Dinner Menu from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Fanny Farmer  my edition 1921 (sadly no illustration)

Oyster Cocktail; consommé; breadsticks; olives; celery; salted pecans;

Duchesse potatoes; cream of lima bean soup; chicken croquettes with green peas; dressed lettuce with cheese straws; English plum pudding; brandy sauce; frozen pudding; assorted cake; bonbons; crackers; cheese; café noir

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That’s it for now, do have a wonderful Christmas and if you still haven’t found something good to read over the holidays, you could always try this – it’s got lots of fabulous reviews! Link to Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2BttGRV (And if you’ve read it and enjoyed it, a review on Amazon would very gratefully received!)

 

 

Street Sheep!

One of the stops on our latest Australian odyssey was Canberra and I blogged last month about our visit to the awe-inspiring Australian War Memorial there. On a lighter note, we were intrigued to find a cluster of statues not far from our hotel.

I love a good statue and my favourite is Sound II, the Anthony Gormley statue in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral.

Sound_II_revisited

In a wet year you’ll find him up to his knees in water but there are – occasionally – times when he’s standing on dry stones. It’s not always possible to do the tour of the crypt because of the risk of flooding, but you can go and look at the statue from just inside the crypt door. In ‘Murder Fortissimo’, the first of my Harriet Quigley mysteries, I had Harriet’s cousin (and sidekick) Sam Hathaway take a troubled soul to see the statue – something I often do myself because there’s a curious peace about it. (I usually go and chat to Jane Austen while I’m in the Cathedral too!)

Nothing soulful or spiritual about the Canberra statues though, although there were 20171005_084210some meaningful pieces – no idea what the pointy beak people are, sorry! Might be angels?

These are wild dogs20171004_185738

 

But these are my favourite! Canberra was built on a sheep station and has been unkindly described as ‘a good sheep paddock spoiled’ and these sheep are a reminder of the city’s past. 20171004_185927

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  • I loved the laid-back ewe(I think it was a ewe!) lounging in a chair and decided she needed something good to read! In the photo above she’s clearly intent on the story and below you can see she’s blissed out after enjoying The House at Ladywell!20171004_180210
  • If the sheep could write she’d be reviewing The House at Ladywell to go with the fabulous four and five star reviews already up on Amazon UK – ‘A really beautiful book…’  Here’s the link to Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2yKDYdk

Train Trip

The Engineer and I like trains, we’re known for it. ‘Another train journey?’ friends ask. And the answer is usually yes. This year’s epic marathon found us travelling from north to south in Australia, or as the locals say, from the Top End downwards. It’s about 2,000 miles and it took three nights and very nearly four days from departing from Darwin and arriving in Adelaide.

The Ghan Train was named after the cameleers who blazed the trail into the Red Centre of Australia in the 19th century. Many of them came from Pakistan although they were believed to be from Afghanistan and thus became known as (Af)Ghans.

 

The Ghan Expedition is really a cruise on wheels, with stops for excursions by coach, delicious meals, a well-stocked bar, and helpful, friendly staff. You do need to be ok about sleeping in bunks though, and I have no head for heights; luckily the Engineer has no nerves about anything and is fine about mountaineering to bed. (Pic – bedtime story)

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First stop was at Katherine, south of Darwin, where the temperature was 37C and rising so we were glad of a boat trip through the Nitmiluk Gorge, first walking through a grove of trees which had a sign saying: Don’t look up – can you guess why?

After that we stopped in Alice Springs which hadn’t seen a drop of rain since January – until the September evening when we went to an outdoor BBQ at the Telegraph Station there! Luckily it was just a shower. The final outing was to the underground city of Coober Pedy, famous for opal mines. A lot of the houses were a bit Hobbit-like, with chimneys sticking out of the rock and we went underground to check out an opal mine. Had lunch there too! For someone who is mildly claustrophobic I seem to have been down an awful lot of mines: a lead mine in Derbyshire, coal mine in France, silver mine in Austria, copper mine in Sweden and now an opal mine in Australia.nickydownanopalmine

It was a fabulous journey and I do it again only I’d have to mortgage the Engineer, and it wouldn’t be any fun without him! (Pic: Englishwoman abroad, complete with (M&S) pearls!)

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The House at Ladywell is out now and I survived an online book launch on Facebook. There are some 5* reviews already!  – , available in ebook and paperback http://amzn.to/2i7o2Z9

The perfect novel to curl up and read with a glass of mulled wine and a cat on your lap during those dark winter months…

Brilliant – the past and present are entwined and Freya uncovers her own mystery whilst delving into the history of the house.’

A very, very readable story.’

A real feel-good romantic story about a house and its history, Nicola Slade writes characters you instantly warm to. I liked the use of elements in local history to provide background to the story of the house – it feels as though one could go and look for an actual house.